Friday, 16 September 2016

Prep work for Feast of the Bear Part II - With Pictures

This is part two of my post on prep work we did for Feast of the Bear. Part one covered the making of AElfwyn's vigil book with Master Giovanni.

AElfwyn's vigil and elevation ceremony was based on Anglo-Saxon ceremonies. So we knew we needed to look the part. Now, I don't normally do early period beyond the occasional Norse, and I certainly didn't have any garb that suited a formal Anglo-Saxon event.  I also hadn't had any luck in the past making a pair of shoes that actually fit and looked right.

Sooo, new garb and new shoes were in the cards.


I'd previously made a pair of shoes but the ended up being way too wide and about two sizes too big because I did a poor job of tracing the sole. But they also weren't particularly early period, so I needed to adjust the pattern for the uppers as well.

I used my milled veg tan leather (which was the leather from the Stick-Purse) and dyed it using walnut dye extract that I bought on our trip to Montreal. It produced the same nice brown as the black walnuts without the mess of handling them. Just add water. :)

The shoes are stitched using waxed linen thread.

Here is the one shoe before I turned it and then after fighting with it to turn it right-side out.

And here are the two shoes turned and on my feat to test the fit (still a little bit wide and long but certainly wearable).

The original artifacts often have holes along the top edge, which may suggest edge trim was applied to clean it up. I also find it stiffens up the shoe a bit so it holds its shape a bit better, so I did that too. I left the leather natural colours as I thought it would give good contrast with the darker brown shoes.

Carlson also has an interesting latch system for keeping the shoes closed, which don't actually use any stitches to anchor the latches. I'd never tried that before but gave it a shot, and it seems to work OK. You cut small holes and wedge thicker straps through the holes and it locks into place.

So here's the finished shoe. You'll see them on my feet in the garb pictures below as well.


While I was working on the book cover and the shoes, Avelyn was busily working on making me look good. :)

We got all the fabric we needed in Montreal, and commissioned Baroness Mahault to do up some nice boar-themed embroidery for the collars and cuffs.

Avelyn spent weeks leading up to the event sewing the tunics, and spent her day at the event hand stitching a cap for me.

I'll leave the details to her to tell since it wasn't my project but needless to say I'm super appreciative. She did an awesome job. Thanks also to Emelote and Bethoc for last minute help getting the finishing touches done on the night before we left. :)

The undertunic, cap and shoes

Here I am on the left in the overtunic.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Making stuff for Feast of the Bear - Part 1 (With Pictures)

Feast of the Bear was a super important event this year, but that's not all that unusual. For some reason, stuff seems to happen at Feast of the Bear. That's the event I received my Award of Arms in 2008, at the very same church where it was held this year.

At Trillium war in July, to a great deal of rejoicing, Mistress AElfwyn was put on vigil for the Order of Chivalry. Their Majesties wanted to do the elevation before the end of Their reign, so AElfwyn selected Feast of the Bear as her elevation event.

As AElfwyn's apprentice, I had a small part in the ceremony, so we've spent the past few weeks making things so that I would look the proper Anglo-Saxon(ish) part. That's why we did the fabric shopping trip to Montreal, so we could find fabric that had the right colour tones and fibre content. I also made a pair of new shoes, since a pair of modern running shoes would have ruined the look. :)

On top of all that, Master Giovanni asked me to work with him again on the vigil book by doing the leatherwork for the cover.

So, its been a busy few weeks. Here is part one of my Feast of the Bear work, the vigil book. Other stuff will be covered in the next post.

The book:

I knew I wanted to do something more than just dye the leather, which certainly added some complexity for both me and Giovanni. I had to be precise in the measurements to make sure any tooling etc. was placed correctly for when he made the book. I pushed the envelope a lot on this one, doing a number of new techniques I'd never tried under a tight timeline. Some of it worked, others didn't. In the end, I figured that AElfwyn would appreciate me trying to push the envelope so I went with it. :)

My initial idea was to base the cover on the St Cuthbert Gospel, which is an 8th century Anglo-Saxon book. However, the cover on the Gospel is super complex, with raised sections, tooled sections and is both dyed red and painted with gold highlighting (or more likely gold leaf). Given the timeline for the project I thought it best to take inspiration from the design, but not to try to replicate it entirely. I also wanted to customize it a bit for AElfwyn by replacing the core design with a boar.

First I had to sand the leather to get the pressed layer off (I had to do the same thing for the last book we did, it was AElfwyn's suggestion at the time). Once it was sanded I did the tooling. Here's the tooled wet leather:

Once I did the tooling I realized I screwed up my placement, and essentially tooled the back cover. So I had to modify the plan and do matched tooling on the front and back, like so:

Once the leather was tooled I had to dye it. This is where I made another mistake. Rather than using my existing period red dye recipe, I tried to modify the process based on what Mistress Lucrece did for her recent book project. My hope was that it would give me a truer red. But these are natural dyes and any little variation can throw things off, so it ended up not working out quite the way I intended. The colour was more a brownish purple than red, and it didn't bind well to the leather. More experimentation needed, but I ran out of time and had to go with it since a dye batch takes a couple of days to make.

The dying process took a few days between pre-treating the leather with alum water and then doing multiple coats of dye with drying time between. Just in case the tooled section messed up I dyed the whole skin so Giovanni would have enough space to make a plain leather cover as a back-up plan.

Once it was dried, I used my black water-based leather dye from Zeli's to make the boars black. Unfortunately I found because the red dye wasn't adhering well to the leather, painting on top of it also presented challenges. Each black coat had to dry much longer before I went back for another coat, or it would come right off. I was also worried it would rub off when my top coat was applied.

Once I got the black to where I was happy with it, I took some metallic gold craft paint and a micro brush and painted all of the tooling lines on the boars. I bought five different types of paint and tested them to see which was the least likely to rub off. The best of the bunch was from Martha Stewart that I bought at Michael's.

Here are pictures of the boars painted.

I then had to decide what to do with the border. The original Gospel had a raised line that delineated the border, but the logistics of knowing how much space to leave Giovanni to do that were daunting, so I decided to skip that. In the end I decided to paint the knotwork with the gold paint, but leave the outer lines plain.

After that I let it all dry and applied the a modern top coat to hopefully stop anything from rubbing off as the book was handled. This led me to doing a bit of touching up on the boars as some of the black flaked off, and it did wear away some of the colour, but not too bad. I also had a problem with the top coat making a chalky layer on the leather, which has never happened before. That really pissed me off but no amount of buffing was helping get rid of the coating.

In the end I think it turned out pretty well, although there's a number of things I would do differently. Giovanni did a great job making the book itself. I'm sure it was a nightmare trying to make sure the covers lined up properly because of the tooled border. 

Avelyn described it as looking like an actual artifact that was pulled form the ground (which I think is something that would please AElfwyn) because of the way the dyes rubbed off in some places. It looks weathered.

Here's a picture of the final book that Giovanni took once it was finished.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Summer Siege Wrap Up - With Pictures

Running a bit behind with blog posts, its been a crazy few weeks getting stuff ready for multiple events.

Summer Siege, as always, was a busy event for me. It was also a Royal progress stop this year as we had a Laurel ceremony happening, so the attendance was significantly higher than usual.


Normally I'm running the rapier list since I'm the Canton's Rapier Marshal, but this year we tried a new format for the A&S activities and as Baronial A&S Minister I ran that instead. Gavin was kind enough to volunteer to run Rapier, and while we didn't have the record number of fencers we had last year, it looked like a pretty good turn-out and folks seemed to have fun.

Normally in the past for the event I have borrowed the Caldrithig armoured combat list poles from His Excellency Shahid, but they are rather large and heavy, and really overkill for rapier. So this year, Avelyn and I worked to make a new set of list poles, based on the ones Jocelyn loaned me last year for the Althing. We even got a bit of power tool help from Avelyn's dad, since our little hand drill was rather under-powered for the job.

The best part of them is that instead of taking up half the back of our truck, I can disassemble them and they fit into a duffel bag. They're super light weight.

Here are a couple of pictures of them in action. We'll call them the prototype, since there are some things I may want to adjust, but they seemed to work OK for their maiden event.


A lot of the work for the A&S activity was before the event, coordinating judges and entries etc. What I was hoping for was a chance for local artisans to get some feedback on projects. I had a good host of people volunteer to judge, which was really great. Unfortunately a number of people who had planned to enter items weren't in the end able to make the event. We did have one lovely embroidery entry and she seemed to get some good feedback so that's good. Hopefully it will continue to grow in the next few years.

Thrown Weapons

Their Excellencies have been using Summer Siege to run both their thrown weapon's and archery champions tourneys in recent years, as its one of the few venues that lends itself to those activities in the Barony. Last year I managed to win the Thrown Weapons tourney with what was easily my best ever day on the range. The chances of me doing as well again this year were slim, but I entered again this year to defend my title, or at least make sure that I gave the winner a run for their money. :)

During the tourney I knew I didn't throw as well as the previous year, but I hit a good number of throws from 10 ft, but not much from 20 ft, so I knew it would be tight.

In court I was called up to step down as champion, where I surprised Their Excellencies with a new axe and heraldic axe cover for the champion (I did the same when I stepped down as Rapier Champion, so now it's twice, so its a tradition!). Eluned picked up the axe for me at Pennsic and I made the cover based on my existing axes.

Here's a picture of me returning the tabbard and presenting the axe.

and here are some close ups of the axe and cover:

So I bow my way out of court, go back to the audience and resume taking pictures. They call up the Marshal, who starts calling out the top three, and low and behold, they call me up as the winner and Their Excellencies get to give me back all the regalia once again. I think They enjoyed the joke of handing me back the axe after I just presented it. :)

Other things of note:

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the Laurel elevation in more detail. THL Alais (now Mistress Alais) focuses a lot of her research on shepherdesses and peasant practices. Her elevation was really unique as they modeled it after a Flemish village wedding ceremony, including using dances as part of the ceremony. It was really neat, and totally suited the event. I'm glad the weather was nice (if hot) and that everything seemed to go well.

I had been asked to be their "official" photographer for the elevation so I tried to make sure I got lots of pictures while I was hopping between activities. I was also able to do a family photo for her after the ceremony, which is always a nice keepsake.